Religious Group Wants Special Rights for Churches

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization in Arizona, is unhappy about the IRS rules saying that churches can’t endorse political candidates. They’re asking preachers to engage in acts of civil disobedience by preaching about politics. Then, the plan is to get sued and have the IRS rule declared unconstitutional, on the grounds that churches have the right to free speech, and the government shouldn’t be telling them what they can and can’t say.


It sounds good, if you don’t think about it too hard. The problem is that this isn’t a constitutional issue, it’s a tax law issue.

As Americans United for the Separation of Church and State explains, preachers already have wide latitude in what they’re allowed to say. They can already talk about politics; they can tell people why immigration reform or universal health care are {terrific,horrible} ideas. The rule seems to be that they have to stop short of actually coming out and saying “Vote for Smith”.

Actually, what I just said only applies to churches that are incorporated as 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. So the no-political-endorsements rule makes sense: if you’re a charity, you’re assumed to be doing good work for the community, so you get to not pay taxes. But that comes with strings attached: if you’re a charity, you’re expected not to engage in politics. If, on the other hand, your organization is a political one, you’re free to endorse the political candidates of your choice all day long, but you also have to pay taxes, just like any political organization.

If the churches that support the Alliance Defense Fund were to decide that politics is an integral part of their organization (First Church of Christ, Republican), and they’d rather be seen by the IRS as a PAC than a charity, hey, I’m cool with that. But no, they want to have their cake and eat it, too. They’ve decided that freedom of speech and freedom of religion entitle them to say what they want (like everyone else), but also not to pay taxes (unlike everyone else).

I can’t see this ending well for them.

(Tip o’ the yamulke to The Carpetbagger Report via Crooks & Liars.)

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3 Responses to Religious Group Wants Special Rights for Churches

  1. Troublesome Frog says:

    Hmmm… So if you’re a church, you can’t also be a political organization. Is that kind of like Bill Maher’s, “You can’t be a charity and also murder people” rule? It certainly makes things a little easier to categorize.

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  2. arensb says:

    I’d like to think that ∀x, you can’t be an x and also murder people, but maybe that’s just me.

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  3. Robert Madewell says:

    It’s another attempt by the churches to control what their congregation thinks. They want to control a “voting block” of people who all vote the same way. A church can gain lots of power if allowed to operate this way. As a matter of fact, churches are technically allowed to operate this way, but if they do then they have to pay taxes.

    It makes me feel bad for the members of churches that want to endorse candidates, because it makes each individual member a puppet that’s supposed to do what the church says. (Not that they already are this in some cases.) In the US we have individual rights, but some Churches are wanting to control those rights to their own ends. It would not suprise me if these churches would try to monitor each members vote somehow to make sure he/she voted as he/she was told to and maybe revoke membership if he/she did not. Would not suprise me in the least.

    IMO, churches should be encouraging members to think for themselves and to exercise thier freedoms. If it was not for these freedoms many churches would not be in operation today. Without much exception, religion is mostly about control. I’m afraid here in the US it’ll get worse before it gets better. Atheism may be on the rise, but so is fundyism. We may see a polarization of religion and non-religion. If so, it will not be pretty, but I see a trend in that direction.

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